Hartmann, Sadakichi, 1867-1944

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1867-11-08
Death 1944-11-22
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Art dealer; Pittsburgh, Pa.

From the description of Sadakichi Hartmann papers, 1906. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122404447

Art critic, painter and writer; Andover, New Hampshire and Banning, California. Author of several books on American art.

From the description of Sadakichi Hartmann manuscript, 1933. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122370555

One item is from Atma Dorothea Hartmann, daughter of Sadakichi Hartmann.

From the description of Correspondence with Theodore Dreiser, 1921-1932. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 155890722

Introduction (Historical Background)

"The clapboard shanty known as "Catclaw Siding" is gone now, torn down many years ago, but in the summer of 1954 it stood on the desert flats of Morongo Indian Reservation, paint mostly worn away, wind rushing through its broken windowpanes. I was then a newspaper reporter, pursuing a story, and I badly wanted into the shack to see what secrets it contained. Ten years before it had been the last home of Sadakichi Hartmann (1867-1944), an almost forgotten American literary figure from the Mauve Decade. I studied the shack, carefully jotting down descriptive notes for my story. Then I walked away from it and knocked on the door of a nearby adobe house. The door was opened by a hauntingly beautiful woman with coal-black hair framing an olive-hued face.

She listened suspiciously as I explained that I was a reporter and wanted to do a story on her late father, Sadakichi Hartmann. Then she slammed the door in my face.

That was my introduction to Wistaria Hartmann Linton, who was to become a close friend and future collaborator with Professor George Knox and me in research on her father.

Some weeks before Gene Fowler had published Minutes of the Last Meeting, a popular memoir detailing the escapades of John Barrymore, W. C. Fields, and other Hollywood celebrities during their last years. The most memorable character in his book was Sadakichi Hartmann, whom he called "the magnificent charlatan." Fowler portrayed Hartmann as an ancient relic of the earliest Bohemian days of Greenwich Village--now down on his luck, cadging drinks off Barrymore and various cronies for whom he performed as a witty and sarcastic court jester. There was much that was accurate in Fowler's portrayal of the half-Japanese, half-German writer, poet, dramatist, and critic. There was also much that was hearsay with no basis in fact. Fowler had a gift for telling a good story that would amuse readers, and he enjoyed making a good story better whenever possible. He embroidered upon many of the legends that had clung to Sadakichi Hartmann, dismissed the old man's real achievements as drunken boasts, and conducted only superficial research into his subject's past.

The book was an instant best-seller and cause-célèbre that summer in the San Gorgonio Pass. Many long-time residents of the two Pass communities of Banning and Beaumont had known Hartmann--if only as an eccentric and mysterious figure with aristocratic manners who prowled their streets in a heavy overcoat, rumpled white hair poking from under a felt hat. In 1923, Hartmann had moved his family to Beaumont, and from that base he had made periodic forays to Hollywood, working on films, writing movie criticism, and joining the John Barrymore crowd as a drinking companion. In 1938, then in his 70's, Sadakichi had built his old-age shack, "Catclaw Siding" as he called it, on land owned by a Cahuilla cattlerancher, Walter Linton, who was then married to his daughter, Wistaria. Now ten years after his death everyone in the San Gorgonio Pass was reading about him in Fowler's book.

I had never heard of Sadakichi Hartmann when the book came out. I found the book entertaining, accepted all of Fowler's tales at face value, and liked Sadakichi's mocking tongue and indomitable spirit. I was surprised to find those reader's of the book who had known Sadakichi best angry at Fowler's portrait.

I believe the first criticism I heard about the book came from Mrs. George Lardner, Beaumont Librarian, who enjoyed discussing literature and often had invited Hartmann to her home for lunch. "I have yet to meet anyone who knew Sadakichi well who isn't disgusted by Fowler's book," she told me. Dr. Guy Bogart of Beaumont was also indignant. "He was a poseur, yes," admitted Bogart, "but a charlatan, no! If you read Fowler's book you'll see only a drunken moocher--the seedy old man Fowler met in his declining years. Yet Sadakichi was a rare personality, who never surrendered his ideals or artistic integrity for a moment."

I was puzzled by the fact that most of those local people who had known Sadakichi agreed Fowler had captured much of the man's personality--yet they still considered the book an injustice. No one denied that Hartmann drank a lot, no one denied that he lived off a string of patrons, no one denied that much of his behavior was outrageous. Yet most of those who had any personal relationship with Sadakichi professed admiration and respect for him. For that matter, it was clear that Fowler had also admired Hartmann, perhaps even envied his strange charisma. As newspaper bureau chief for the Riverside Press-Enterprise Co. in the San Gorgonio Pass, I immediately saw the potential for an interesting feature story.

I had particularly wanted to interview Mrs. Linton about her reactions to the book. But the door had slammed shut on me.

Several days later, Ruth Little, a local newspaper writer and friend of Wistaria, persuaded her to talk with me. During an afternoon, I learned some of the reasons for Wistaria's reluctance to grant an interview. During the years of WWII, Hartmann's family had almost been interned because of his German-Japanese heritage. Many townspeople had ostracized the Hartmann family and circulated rumors that Sadakichi was a spy. Both the FBI and County Sheriff's Department had hounded the family with endless questions, and sheriff's deputies in patrol cars often followed family members when they left home. Some of Hartmann's children had been embarassed by his unconventionality and flamboyant Bohemianism. They were the children of his second marriage to Lillian Bonham, and none of them had known their father at the peak of his career in New York at the turn of the century, when he had made and spent money freely. Instead, they had grown up in the midst of the Depression in the middle-class atmosphere of San Gorgonio Pass--with a father who boasted of past triumphs and didn't care what the neighbors thought of him. Fowler's book with its suggestion that Hartmann was a charlatan evoked mostly bad memories. Even so, Mrs. Linton admitted that she had laughed at parts of the book: "Some of it seemed so much like Dad!"

"Catclaw Siding" had been closed since Sadakichi's death in 1944. Now Mrs. Linton agreed to let me look inside the shack. She turned a key in the padlock and we entered. A rain-stained "History of Modern Painting" at which mice had nibbled lay on the splintered floor. Rotted floorboards exposed bare sand beneath. In a corner of the shack was a battered grey trunk--Sadakichi's manuscript trunk. I lifted the lid, sifted through the papers, and was stunned by its contents.

Inside were piles of unpublished manuscripts, published articles, short stories, and poetry, and immense bundles of correspondence. I picked up one of the letters and read the name Ezra Pound. There were letters from George Santayana, Benjamin de Casseres, Douglas Fairbanks. The trunk was a bookman's dream. And there was more. Not only the contents of the trunk. Other materials had been stored in cupboards in Mrs. Linton's house. Among these was a scrapbook dating back to the 1890's marked "Revelations." And there was Hartmann's unpublished autobiography, never completed, but nonetheless several hundred pages offering rich insights into Sadakichi Hartmann's youth and early career for future researchers. And photographs: photographs by Gertrude Kasebier, J. C. Strauss, Rudolf Eickemeyer, Frank Eugene--names of long dead photographers whose significance meant nothing to me as yet.

Most of this material would have been widely dispersed and perhaps lost to research if it had not been for Wistaria Linton. Throughout his life, whenever Sadakichi needed money desperately, he sold his manuscripts or correspondence to rare book dealers and collectors. Various auction catalogues from the early 1900's record scarce Hartmann materials that have simply vanished into private hands and have never been found. Fortunately, Wistaria recognized the importance of the Hartmann materials. As a young woman, her father had taken her education in hand, directing her reading, encouraging her interest in art, and taking her along as a companion on trips to museums or to visit literary or artistic friends. She curbed his recklessness whenever possible by talking him out of manuscripts or other items that seemed significant--or when that failed hiding them from Sadakichi. She began this habit as a teenager and continued it into Sadakichi's old age.

The summer of 1954 Wistaria and I became conspirators together. I saw the possibility of an unusual literary expose. A series of newspaper articles recording the angry reactions of Sadakichi's friends to Fowler's book and a glimpse at some of his real accomplishments. Wistaria was delighted by my defense of her father. There was far too much Hartmann material for me to become even remotely acquainted with it in a short period--and too much that I didn't know about American art and literature. Nevertheless, we worked well together, delighted each time we uncovered a new facet of Sadakichi's past.

The series, five articles titled "The Last Bohemian," appeared in the Riverside Daily Enterprise from August 4 through August 16. They were entertaining journalism, not scholarship, and looking them over today I find almost as many errors as we pinpointed in Fowler's Minutes of the Last Meeting. In February of 1955, they were singled out for an award as the best newspaper series of the year in California by the California Newspaper Publishers Association. I was transferred to the Riverside office of the Press-Enterprise Co.

Wistaria. and I remained good friends. We talked occasionally about a scholarly book about her father, but by then I was well aware of the scope of such a task and my limited background in nineteenth century art and literature. Several years later Wistaria was offered a position in the Photographic Services at UCR, where she worked until her retirement in 1976. Eventually, I also joined the staff of the University. Wistaria was concerned about many of the more perishable materials in her father's papers and sometime in the mid-1960's we arranged with Librarian Edwin Coman to store these in the UCR General Library. As yet, however, she was uncertain about their final disposition.

Meanwhile, unaware that much of the Hartmann collection was stored at UCR, Professor George Knox of the Department of English had become interested in Sadakichi Hartmann. Knox's field was nineteenth century and early twentieth century American literature, and while Hartmann was not a major literary figure, he was nevertheless a writer who had been totally ignored by scholarship while many of his lesser contemporaries had become fields of inquiry.

It was Jake Zeitlin, the antiquarian bookman, who brought us together as he has done on many occasions with other scholars. Zeitlin had sold several Hartmann Manuscripts to the UCR Library and learned about the Hartmmann papers stored in the library. When Knox on a visit to Zeitlin & Ver Brugge mentioned Sadakichi to Jake, the bookman was able to regale him with his own personal reminiscences of the Bohemian writer, who in the 1920's had often hung out at Jake's shop. He then mentioned the collection at UCR, right in Knox's own backyard. The result has been more than ten years of friendship and collaboration in Hartmann research, during which we have edited four books in Hartmann scholarship, published the Sadakichi Hartmann Newsletter, and encouraged other Hartmann researchers or scholars in peripheral areas.

Shortly before her retirement in 1976 from the University, Wistaria Hartmann Linton made the decision that her father's papers and other materials belonged in Special Collections & Archives at the UCR Library. While the Wistaria Hartmann Linton Collection makes up the bulk of the Sadakichi Hartmann Archives, the archives have been steadily growing over the years. Mrs. Dorothea Atma Gilliland of St. Petersburg, Florida, a daughter of Hartmann by his first marriage, made a substantial gift of Hartmann papers to the archives in 1972, although much of her material had been acquired earlier by the University of Oregon. Among the many persons who have donated Hartmann correspondence or other materials to the collection are Christel Gang, Nora Morgan, Helga Hanson, Raymond Brossard, Peter Krasnow, and C. Verne Klintworth. Recently, the UCR Library acquired a substantial collection of Hollywood materials from Gene Fowler's son, Will Fowler, including Hartmann manuscripts and taped interviews with Hartmann friends such as the painter John Decker and the actor Thomas Mitchell that were used in the writing of Minutes of the Last Meeting.

Those of us who use the Sadakichi Hartmann archives must be indebted to the UCR Library for providing this catalogue of the collection. It is now possible to easily locate specific items in the collection or to form a partial idea of the contents of a particular item. At the same time, a definitive annotation of the collection that would have given us reference to all of the hundreds of artists, writers, photographers, and other notables that crop up in the archives would have been a virtually impossible task that would have delayed ready access to the archives for many years. With the publication of this catalogue, the UCR Library has provided a long needed and excellent tool for those carrying out research on Sadakichi Hartmann and many of his contemporaries.

Our immeasurable indebtedness is to the daughter who as a young woman recognized the value of her father's papers and kept them from reaching the hands of private collectors. In recognition of her foresight, this catalogue is dedicated to Wistaria Hartmann Linton."

Harry Lawton, University of California, Riverside, January 15, 1980

From the guide to the Sadakichi Hartmann papers, circa early 20th century, undated, circa early 20th century, (Rivera Library. Special Collections Department.)

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Subjects:

  • Art dealers
  • Painters
  • Painting, American
  • Art, American
  • Photographers
  • Pictorialism (Photography movement)
  • Artists
  • Art--Societies, etc
  • Art criticism

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • Pennsylvania--Pittsburgh (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Pennsylvania--Philadelphia (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)